Originally published in Bee Biz, Number 8, July 1998, pp. 3-6.
Canadian Honey Council and Association of
Professional Apiculturists Meet in Joint
Symposium with Québec Honey Producers’ Federation
Malcolm T. Sanford
Situation in Québec:
Braula coeca, I. Barton Smith:
Canadian Mite Research:
Development Activities in Kashmir:
Varroa Resistance to Apistan®:
Canadian Bee Research Fund:
Tour to InterMiel:
This is the second year that I have been privileged to meet in Canada with the Honey Council (CHC) and the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA). The 1997 meeting was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in association with the beekeepers of that prairie province. I reported on that event in the February 1997 issue of the Florida Cooperative Extension APIS newsletter <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apfeb97.htm>. This year, the venue was Laval, a suburb of Montreal, and the joint symposium was held with the Québec Honey Producers’ Federation. The Canadian Honey Council is Canada’s major producers association, which publishes the journal Hivelights. CAPA is the country’s professional association that includes provincial apiarsts and those doing beekeeping research at major universities and elsewhere. Both in Manitoba and Québec, I was impressed with the professionalism and dedication these groups show toward the beekeeping industry. This seems particularly evident the last two years as Canadians begin to gear up for the 1999 Apimondia meeting they will host in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This was also my second visit to Québec, having addressed the beekeepers there in the Spring of 1996. The apiculture situation in the province has been buffeted by winds of change as discussed in an article titled: "Québec Has Lost Seventy Five Percent of its Honey Producers," La Terre de Chez Nous (13-19 November 1997), pp. 9-10 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/quebec.htm> :
"The number of beekeepers is in free fall. In a score of years, the number of hives in Québec has fallen from 100,000 to 30,000, while the number of beekeepers has been reduced from 4,000 to 700. At the same time, the average number of colonies has increased from 25 to 43 per beekeeper. Honey production level, however, has been maintained through more intensive management.
There is also a tendency for operations to become ever larger; those with over 500 colonies and into the thousand colony range have all increased their numbers. These outfits have diversified their sources of revenue by offering pollination services and products to the agro-tourism trade, including mead, wax, pollen and royal jelly."
As beekeeping begins to regroup in Québec, it seemed fitting that the CHC and CAPA meet in that province in 1998. It was also a sign of the times that both francophone and anglophone Canadians, interested in the welfare of their common enterprise, recognized each other’s contributions. This was exemplified in awarding the Council’s Fred Rathje Award to Jean-Pierre Chapleau, a local queen producer who has been instrumental in disseminating beekeeping information to his region and the nation via the Internet and other means. He is also an active member of the Apimondia 99 Organizing Committee. The award is given each year to a person making a significant, positive contribution to the betterment of Canadian beekeeping.
In another example of this budding cooperation, the Eastern Canada Apicultural Symposium will be held Saturday, July 11, 1998 in Québec at the Deschambault Research Station. Ontario and the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island) and Québec are all cooperating to bring Dr. Nokolaus Koeniger from Germany to discuss world perspectives on bee mites. More information should be forthcoming on this conference in the near future. For details, contact Pat Westlake, Ontario Beekeepers Association, Bayfield, Ontario N0M 1G0, tel. (519) 565-2622.
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The joint symposium offered presentations in both languages through simultaneous translation. The lead off speaker was I. Barton Smith, Jr., Maryland State Apiary Inspector, who discussed a little-known insect found on honey bees, Braula coeca, the bee louse. This wingless fly, according to Mr. Smith, is found in very few states. At the symposium, several said they had also seen this animal in Canada. The fly may be confused with Varroa, according to Mr. Smith. The key difference, however, is that the fly has six legs, which extend out from the body, while Varroa has eight, tucked underneath an outer shell <http://hammock.ifas.ufl.edu/txt/fairs/1029>.
Whether the bee louse is a pest of honey bees depends on who you talk to according to Mr. Smith. In his home state of Maryland, they do not appear to affect bees. However, he has seen a large number of these insects on honey bees and wonders what they are really doing. As an example, he showed a picture of a queen with over a dozen bee lice attached! [Editor’s note: While visiting Spain back in the early 1970s, I heard that a significant bee louse problem existed. Beekeepers were using sulphur in their smokers as a way to control what they considered a pest in their hives.]
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Mites continue to be on the minds of most bee researchers and beekeepers, according to Dr. Mark Winston of Simon Fraser University. They are the most extreme and important thing to affect honey bee culture in recent times, he said. This means that bee researchers and beekeepers have been forced to move directly into treatment, bypassing the traditional route of first collecting basic information on these parasites. Thus, we do not know what specific effects tracheal mites have on honey bees, nor as much as is necessary to get the best handle on controlling Varroa. Unfortunately, most chemical treatments are simply not desirable, Dr. Winston, concluded. They are dangerous to bees and beekeepers, expensive to administer and represent real possibilities of honey contamination.
Dr. Winston and his students have been working to determine if substances produced by the neem tree might have usefulness in Varroa treatment. Neem is one of those oils of essence that is garnering attention in Varroa mite control, but has yet to be definitively proven as effective or labeled for this use <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apjan97.htm#3>. Many essential oils, even though natural in origin, are very hard on bees, and thus it’s unwise to settle for rumor when it comes to what to use, Dr. Winston said. Lab and field tests, consistent results and residue analysis all make up a package for a product that in the end can be registered and labeled as safe for beekeeping use. We are a long way from this using either of the two possible neem products (oil and the solid AZA) <http://www.neemfoundation.org/comp.htm>, according to Dr. Winston. So far, a big problem is delivery--the bees will not eat the material either in patties or syrup. This is not surprising because neem is employed as an insect feeding deterrent and pesticide in many agricultural situations <http://cis-6.altnews.com.au/neem/useful.htm>. Because of this, however, Dr. Winston and his students are experimenting with mixing it in vegetable oil and spraying the material on bees, forcing consumption.. Once the delivery system is perfected, neem has some interesting properties that might not only allow it to be used in Varroa control, but also for tracheal mites, foulbrood and chalkbrood.
Two other studies by Dr. Winston and his students reveal the synergies that exist in a honey bee colony. A project on effects of both tracheal and Varroa mites provided evidence that when both mites are present, bees tend to begin to forage earlier than normal (16 days or earlier); those infested with only tracheal mites delay the onset of foraging (18 days or later). Dual mite infestations also result in less overwintering success as might be predicted. A most interesting question generated from this study is why bees fed on by Varroa are attractive to tracheal mites, but the reverse is not true?
Another research project also reveals the role of nutrition in colonies that are infested with Varroa. Those fed abundantly on pollen had a greater pollen-to-brood conversion efficiency, whether or not infested with mites. And better nutrition helped even heavily Varroa-infested bees weather the affects of parasitization. This provides evidence that other aspects of beekeeping should not be ignored, even in the face of the clear and present danger that mites pose <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis98/apfeb98.htm#3>.
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John Gruszka, Saskatchewan Provincial Apiculturist, reported on his activities as an apicultural consultant in Kashmir. This project has some extenuating circumstances. It is impossible to travel very far up the road to visit beekeepers because of guerrilla activity, for example. Kashmir is in dispute between Islamic Pakistan and Hindu India.
Another problem is that official philosophy must somehow be modified to fit local conditions. The native honey bee to this area is Apis cerana, but leaders, including extension personnel, believe that Apis mellifera should be used exclusively because it is perceived to be more productive. Mr. Gruszka is attempting to show that this is not necessarily the case. Even though an outbreak of what is known as "Thai sacbrood" has devastated the local cerana bees, he thinks they still have a place in the region’s apicultural development. The use of top-bar beekeeping is also being explored by Mr. Gruszka to help beekeepers who have few resources and cannot afford the frames and other paraphernalia of the modern Langstroth beehive.
Other problems encountered include starving bees that are not routinely being fed and perception of a large local wax moth "problem." The latter is a strongly held belief, as it is in many beekeeping communities. Telling locals that wax moths are only a symptom of a weak hive, not the cause, according to Mr. Gruszka, has not made much of an impact. However, a classic demonstration did. He put a wax-moth infested comb into the center of a strong colony; the bees cleaned up the mess much to amazement of his counterparts and local beekeepers. He will be going back to Kashmir again in the near future to see if any of the suggestions he has made might have borne fruit.
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The Canadians are concerned about reports from south of their border that Apistan® is no longer effective. As a representative from one of the states most affected, I was asked to provide some insight into the phenomenon. Although reports are continuing that control measures using Apistan® are not doing the job, they are mixed. The Florida situation is quite fluid at present, and although some are content to say that mites are resistant, others are waiting for more specific information in order to be convinced. This possible resistance is not a universal problem yet even in Florida, which has a connection with reports from other states. Other possible reasons that treatment might not be working include misapplication and/or product failure <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apoct97.htm#1>.
At the CAPA meeting, Mr. Smith reported on The Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) held in Lawrence, Kansas at Dr.Orley Taylor’s Laboratory, which also was dominated by reports of failure to control Varroa. Reports at that meeting as elsewhere that Varroa was not responding to treatment in South Dakota, Pennsylvania and Florida were troubling, he said. This was especially true because the U.S. has only one legal product to use, Apistan®. Dr. Jeff Pettis of the Beltsville Laboratory is developing a test to show resistance using strips that were designed for package bees. This, however, could be problematic in Canada, according to CAPA members, as that particular strip was not registered in that country.
Fortunately, Mr. Smith said, there was a formic acid gel pack treatment in the works. Reportedly this formulation controls up to 99 of percent tracheal mites, but is only 70-85 percent effective for Varroa. Through USDA’s Office of Technology Transfer, four companies have expressed an interest in registering the product. It was hoped that registration would not take too long, Mr. Smith concluded. A liquid formulation is not being considered. An amitraz formulation is being considered by Wellmark Intl., the manufacturer of Apistan®, as well.
Finally, Mr. Smith described the current situation at the Baton Rouge Laboratory with refernce to developing a Varroa-tolerant honey bee. Queens from Eastern Russia will soon be out of quarantine from Grand Terre Island and on their way to the mainland for testing. It is believed these will found colonies somewhat resistant to parasitization because they come from hives that have survived with Varroa for several seasons without chemical treatment.
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For the Canadians, it makes no difference why treatments are no longer as effective. These reports add ammunition to the arsenal of those who want to see the border closure continued. A white paper has been authored by those in the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists on the issue, which supports closure at the present time. All this means that the border will probably remain sealed for another two years. This is in spite of the fact that Canadians have an alternative Varroa treatment based on formic acid, although truly labeled for the tracheal mite, something not available in the United State.
Border closure has not met with universal approval, however, and although many Canadian producers appear to agree with the decision, others in the industry do not. According to Mr. Wink Howland, President of the Canadian Honey Council, the packers, believing themselves too hard hit by the closure, have dropped membership in the Council, causing disruption in the Council’s activities and a cash flow problem in its fiinances. At the CAPA meeting, Mr. Howland also reported on the transgenic canola situation. Because a lot of this plant grown in Canada, there is concern the European Union might block sales of honey from this plant. And, major European food retailers, even more powerful, have now put in place policies concerning food produced from these plants. Because these are private companies, little can be done politically in Canada, according to Mr. Howland. He said that beekeepers and others should check directly with buyers regarding their position on transgenic products and the safeguards that need to be in place.
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Transgenic plants and honey bees were also addressed by Dr. Winston at the CAPA metting, who has written on the subject in his column in Bee Culture. There are concerns about contaminants or allergy inducing materials in transgenic plants, as well as effects on nectar production and honey yield, he said <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis98/apjan98.htm#3>. In spite of this, Dr. Winston concluded, the train goes on a breakneck speed while the public perception appears to be mostly one of fear of the unknown.
The position of food retailers, many of whom have made a decision not to buy products from these genetically modified plants is a real issue. A recent newspaper article distributed across the Internet shows this clearly:
"Police Close Circle Around Illegal Cultivation of Soybeans," CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, January 31, 1998..
" Federal police in Passo Fundo in the state of Rio Grande do Sul charge that illegal genetically engineered soybeans have been planted in the municipality of Getulio Vargas. The planting allegedly came from a truckload of 200 bags of soy seeds illegally brought in from Argentina. Farmers in nearby municipalities are also under investigation by federal police and agriculture ministry technicians, after a call for investigation by the Brazilian Seed Association.
Police believe that the sources of the soy include an Argentine subsidiary of Monsanto. Genetically altered seeds are allowed in Brazil only after testing and quarantine, which has not happened with the seeds in question. Officials fear that Japanese and European buyers, who refuse to accept genetically engineered soy, will reject Brazilian soy if they believe it has been contaminated by mixture of soy grown from these seeds."
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Dr. Mark Winston reported on the progress of the Canadian Bee Research Fund (CBRF) that he kicked off last year in Winnipeg <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apfeb97.htm#4>. By any stretch of the imagination, it must be considered a success so far, with over CAN $130,000 raised (CAN $1 = US $0.65) . Dr. Winston’s goal of one million Canadian Dollars in ten years seems on track. This was helped considerably by a generous donation from the Garfield-Weston Foundation, which is providing funds for research that results in reducing use of chemicals in beekeeping. As part of its CAN $40,000 contribution each year, thirty would go for current research and the rest would become a permanent part of the capital fund. As a consequence, CBRF research can begin much sooner than was expected.
Another CAN $12,000 was pledged at the Québec meeting for the CBRF. Dr. Winston suggested beekeepers contribute twenty-five cents Canadian per colony to this fund. For beekeepers, he said, this represents a unique opportunity to take an active role in determining how research money will be used
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A final presentation at the symposium was the report of the Apimondia 99 Organizing Committee. The Chair, Don Dixon, provided an up-to-date synopsis of the Committee’s activities. The theme will be "Beekeeping in the New Millennium." As much as possible, the Committee will try to incorporate a forward-looking approach to the convention. The event will be held in the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and the headquarters hotel is the Hyatt Regency with confirmed rates of US $208 per night, single or double. A large range of hotels in every price range is being lined up and a list will be made available.
Official sponsors of the event with at least a US $7,200 commitment, include Bee Maid Honey/Western Wax Works, Dadant & Sons, Simon Fraser University, Wellmark Intl., Medivet, National Honey Board and the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. In addition, there will be plenary sessions by the University of Guelph, Apiary Inspectors of America/American Association of Professional Apiculturists, and British Columbia Honey Producers Association.
In keeping with its theme, the Vancouver event will extensively use the Internet to deliver information on registration and associated activities <http://www.apimondia99.ca>. Beyond the program there will be pre- and post-conference and technical tours, as well as a large ApiExpo, featuring the newest and best examples of beekeeping technology across the world. The latter event is expected to be a major draw for the North American beekeeping public.
Participation from México and South America is expected to be heavy, which will also provide perspectives on apicultural advances in the rest of the Americas. The program is being touted as one of the best ever with plenary sessions on bee pathology, apitherapy, bee biology, media and information, melliferous flora and pollination, beekeeping economy and ecology and the environment. For information, contact the Organizing Committee Apimondia 99, #645-375 Water St., Vancouver, BC Canada V6B 5C6, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As part of the joint symposium, a tour was arranged to InterMiel, Inc., Mr. Christian Macle’s innovative beekeeping operation. Mr. Macle was featured in the La Terre de Chez Nous article mentioned above, as one of the producers in Québec who had to diversify his production when honey prices became unprofitable <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/quebec.htm>. He now manages 2,000 hives and is doing pollination, as well as marketing other bee products. Because package bees are expensive, he keeps 100 to 150 colonies for necessary nuclei to make replacements. He buys queens from local producers in Québec.
Mr. Macle is a former teacher and it shows in almost every aspect of his enterprise. The gift shop is filled with innovative products from soaps to royal jelly to attractively packaged monofloral honeys. The operation hosts many groups from schools and local organizations. It boasts a huge room filled with light boards, wooden bee models, gleaming stainless steel extractors and tanks and a marionette theater. A large glass observation hive six combs high, consisiting of several colonies of bees using a common entrance dominates this area. Finally, there is a lecture room, which holds about sixty persons and a mead tasting facility, tastily furnished with tables and chairs. All this is also part of the building that houses his colonies during winter. Visitors saw hundreds of hives in neat stacks under red light in two indoor wintering rooms.
Arguably the most important product Mr. Macle sells is hydromel or mead. Six varieties are available from dry to sweet. Four are designed to be consumed with main courses and cheeses; two are dessert wines. The latter are laced with either essence of raspberry or blueberry for a more fruity bouquet. The mead is packed in attractive wooden cases and shipped all over the world.
Mr. Macle is originally from France, where he no doubt was influenced about the importance of product promotion. And like most French beekeepers, his enterprise is vertically integrated, taking full advantage of selling value-added products for maximum profit potential <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apaug97.htm#5>. Truly no apicultural visit to Québec is complete without seeing InterMiel, 10291 La Fresniére, St-Benoît, Mirabel J0N 1K0, tél. (800) 265 MIEL.
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